Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Paging Dr. Cassidy.....

Every election cycle I always get one or two stories fed to me that are clearly coming from opposition research done by one candidate on another.  I usually don't bother with them and just try to stick to the longer term stories I've been working on but last week I was delivered a dossier on current U.S. Representative for Louisiana's 6th district, Dr. Bill Cassidy, that called into question his tenure and billing practices to LSU's Health and Sciences Center...

....quite frankly....it irked me.

Here are some documents I received.  I haven't had the chance to scan them all yet but they are public so use them at will:

Cassidy LSU timesheets...or lack thereof

Cassidy LSU workforce documents

Cassidy hours overlapping with time spent as congressman

This particular report was so well researched and sourced....it was hard to ignore.  I read it from top to bottom and I still don't understand all the ethical issues but there are many.

Who is Bill Cassidy?   

Cassidy, an Illinois native (Chicago suburb),  has been employed by the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center  (LSUHSC) since before he won his House seat in 2008.  He won that seat by beating out Don Cazayoux for the 6th District seat.

Shortly after Bill Cassidy made his way into the Beltway, the terms of his employment and tenure at LSUHSC began to be called into question by LSU accountants and administrators.  It seems top-level folks in the LSUHSC were confused at to Dr. Cassidy's position with the public institution and exactly what he was being paid for.

Cassidy wrote a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ethics to approve his position with LSUHSC.  He wanted to keep some level of income flowing from his LSU employment to supplement his salary as a congressman....$174,000/year.

I don't blame him.....he'd been employed by LSUHSC, prior to his election to Congress, at a base salary of $96,156.  That may not sound like much but he was also pulling in an additional $238.581 ( taxpayer generated income...) through various public/state revenue streams.  

A U.S. Rep can hold "side-jobs" as long as the House Committee on Ethics approves the situation and the congressman meets the rigid standards required by Committee laws to ensure there are no conflicts of interests or opportunities for kickbacks by employers, contractors, institutions, etc.

There should be no quid pro quo directly or by circuitous route.

Can congressmen moonlight?

Cassidy's side work for LSUHSC was, in fact, cleared by the Ethics Committee in May of 2010:

U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ethics approval on Dr. William Cassidy's employment at LSUHSC

The response from the House Ethics Commitee (public record) spells out a number of regulations specific to Cassidy's situation including a mandate that Congressmen may not exceed an annual earned income limit of $26,550.  The letter also addresses the amount of time Cassidy would spend working on his side-job and the physical commitments it would require for him to serve as both a practicing physician for LSUHSC vis-a-vis a congressman representing the Gret Stet.

Aside from addressing the potential conflicts it would raise for LSUHSC, the letter from the Ethics Committee states that Cassidy's position with LSUHSC "... requires a time commitment of approximately 16 hours per month and pays a monthly stipend of $2,000."

One can only assume this was the time and amount listed by Cassidy himself in his original letter to the Ethics Committee when requesting approval.

The problem is that his declaration of time/money may not be true.

Time ≠ Money?

Here's where all the trouble starts and this is why I decided to write this post...after looking at these records it appears that Bill Cassidy may be, yet, one more Louisiana politician sucking the public teat without actually doing that much, if anything.  Let me lay it out for you and you be the judge.

From LSUHSC's standpoint, it looks like they bent over backwards and even bypassed their own regulations to keep Cassidy on salary.  They even granted him tenure.

The dossier contains a chain of emails between LSUHSC administrative officials attempting to sort out exactly how much they are going to continue to pay Cassidy and how many hours he will work.

LSUHSC email chain regarding Rep. Cassidy's position after being elected to Congress

Of note in this email correspondence is the query LSUHSC Business Manager, William T. Livings, sent out to LSUHSC brass trying to find out exactly what Dr. Bill was doing for the institution and what they were paying him for....:
" I could make up some semblance of what I think his duties could be, but, in this case, given his status as a U. Congressman, I think it would be prudent from our perspective if I knew exactly what it is yall expect from him for his one day per week (20%). Is he to provide simple clinic services, GI services, endoscopies, HIV services, etc.? What happens to his clinical trials? Is he to provide services at the private clinic? I wouldnt think so given that I cant reimburse him for those services anyway since those collections payments would put him over the 25,000 threshold and auditors are going to want to know exactly what it is he is doing for us (EKLMC; LSUHSC) for the 20,000 Base pay we give him annually. We are going to really have to spell out exactly what it is he does for us for his remuneration from us. Believe me, this scenario will be a very auditable item and I feel they will really hone in on this situation to make sure we are meeting all federal and state
regulations. Thanks." What exactly was he doing for LSUHSC that warranted the 24 thousand bucks a year for 5 years? I've reached out to Cassidy's campaign to try and get an explanation but so far he hasn't responded to me.

What's really interesting is that he told the House Ethics Committee that he was only working for LSUHSC for...

- 16 hours a month/ 4 hours a week

...but he billed LSUHSC for "roughly" ...

- 30 hours a month/7.5 hours a week

....twice the amount of hours he told the House Ethics Committee he was working.  

It appears he told the House Ethics Committee a lie. I don't know for sure but in order for him to accommodate the minimum amount of hours he needed to work for LSUHSC and make his $1,666/ a month, he may have had to lie about his work hours to Congress. It appears he either lied to LSU or to the House of Representatives Committee on Ethics in order to pull down that extra Louisiana taxpayers' cash...I hope he will explain this to the public.  

What's more important to me is that even if he did lie to the House Ethics Committee it looks like LSU bent over backwards to accommodate him as an official staff member and pay him for doing....something on the internet...for 8 hours a week. WTF?  

LSU even maintained his tenure in spite of the fact that he was working at a 20% "LOE" (level of effort). According to LSU's rules, Cassidy should have lost his tenure when he took on the job as a congressman. They either held their nose or, even worse, genuflected in order to keep "Dr. Bill" on staff and on payroll.

There's still a ton of shady stuff going on with his billing to LSU vis-a-vis his time spent on the floor of the House that I haven't gotten to yet. I'm looking into but I don't have all the documents and I need to understand it more before I post.....stay tuned...I'm working on all of this and more importantly so is my brutha Cenlamar.  

This ain't no partisan hit, btw...this is an autopsy.



Clay said...

If this were $Bill or Nagin, this already would have been on the front page of the Times-Pic.

Anonymous said...

The discrepancies between the time sheets and the house floor votes are very interesting. Assuming his salary is reported on LSU's Medicare/Medicaid cost report, then if he wasn't really working the hours he says he was working the salary he was paid was at least partially not a reasonable cost for true hospital (since they weren't getting anything in return for the money they paid him for those hours), and therefore at least some portion of his salary should have been self-disallowed on the cost report. If done intentionally, it inflates the hospital's cost report and would/could constitute a false claim under the Federal False Claims Act. Not to mention all of the other compliance problems it raises like potential disallowances of the reimbursement paid for hospital or other services he was allegedly supervising. That said, you only have a fraction of the medical records needed to prove the case. Still, you do have a big red flag.

Jason Brad Berry said...

Well hang on....there is more. Lamar is publishing a story shortly that will be more defenitive regarding the time sheets.

jeffrey said...

Doesn't seem like the biggest deal in the world.... except for the fact that there are also 50 million commercials telling us about Mary's travel budget and argle bargle and such.

Jason Brad Berry said...

I think it is a big deal...he could have been fraudulently billing LSUHSC and in turn Medicare/Medicaid. That's a big deal for a guy who is most likely going to be our next U.S. Senator.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like another ST. Tammany Reed to me . Wrote a letter to the paper, which was not published, asking for the real Bill Cassidy to stand up. There's something about Bill that most do not see. Call it a hunch. To not debate Mary before absentee voting was a real ploy. Louisiana has a record for not always voting in the best candidate.

Unknown said...

It's definitely a big deal, if Cassidy had a sweetheart deal allowing him to get paid for fraudulently billing the state, it's fraud and corruption pure and simple. Time for us to go after any kind of corruption. Elitist corruption is repulsive and those involved should be held accountable also.

Derron said...

Sounds like a witch hunt by a very desperate Democrat that is way overdue to be sent packing. Even the local Fox affiliate is asking the senator's campaign to pull an ad they running about this due to it's misleading nature.


Wesley1066 said...

There are three questions being waved around.
1. Did Bill Cassidy lie to the House Ethics Committee on the number of hours he would be working for LSU?
2. Did Bill Cassidy submit timesheets to LSU for time he didn't work, ie was in DC voting instead of working for LSU?
3. Did Bill Cassidy fail to meet the terms of his continued employment for LSU?

Let's look at these:
1. He told the Ethics Committee that he would work a maximum of 16 hours a month. The timesheets presented average 13.7 hours per month. No issue there, and despite what the blogger here says, Bill Cassidy did not BILL LSU for 30 hours a month.

2. The list of conflicts show 21 days in question, but 4 of those specifically state the LSU work was phoned in. Of the remaining 17, 10 were roll call votes after 6:00pm which only leaves 7 of these that even warrant further investigation. Since the blogger has referenced CenLamar's article discussing the meetings with Dr. Claude Pirtle, we will discuss these. Pirtle is described as "a resident physician of internal medicine at LSU New Orleans", so describing meetings with him as "resident supervision" would not be an immediate problem. But let's further examine the implications of CenLamar's article. Pirtle is quoted as saying that he met with Cassidy "2 or 3 times a week" in a month that Cassidy only claimed work on 2 days. Either Pirtle is overstating the meetings he had with Cassidy or many of those meetings were not counted as "resident supervision". That leaves us with one day of meeting with Pirtle that CenLamar's only cause for alarm is that Pirtle supports Cassidy, therefore the meeting must be something other than "resident supervision".

3. I have seen nothing yet that indicates correspondence from Bill Cassidy to LSU, the only evidence provided so far is that somebody asked somebody else what the expectations were for Bill Cassidy and that Bill Cassidy took an 80% cut in pay from LSU.

Jason Brad Berry said...

That's the weakest explanation I've heard yet but I'm so glad you offered it up. I'm going to bumper his comment and reply later on tonight.

Wesley1066 said...

Thank you for taking the time to make a thoughtful reply to my post. When you provide your full response, could you also explain the reasoning that takes you to the point where Bill may be fraudulently billing Medicare/Medicaid? The string of logic seems tenuous at best.

Jason Brad Berry said...

Check again, Skippy....I told you later tonight....it's later tonight.

Wesley1066 said...

Thanks, "Skippy", I am writing my response now.